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Winslow Homer Civil War Art:

Songs of War

The illustration at right is a fascinating Winslow Homer illustration of the Songs of War.  It is from the November 23, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly.  The illustration is captioned, "The Songs of War." The illustration represents one of the earliest examples in Harper's Weekly of Homer being featured as an artist. Earlier Homer work in Harper's would primarily be considered simple lithography, or the work of a press illustrator.

Civil War Songs

November 23, 1861 - The Songs of War

This piece would have to be considered "art" in that it is not a lithograph of a photograph, nor is it an illustration of a specific event.  It is an early example of the use of Winslow Homer as a creator of artwork.

The leaf features 7 inset illustrations, all by Homer, each featuring a different Civil War Song. Featured in the upper left inset is an image of a young drummer boy, marching alongside well armed union soldiers.  This image is meant to illustrate the popular Civil war song "The Bold Soldier Boy".  To the right is an image of General George McClellan on horseback, tipping his hat to soldiers who stand at attention.  The song being illustrated here is "Hail to the Chief". One would assume from this image, that at this time, the song was not reserved for the President as it is today. The next image to the right shows revelry in a Union camp, with soldiers fighting and drinking.  The song being portrayed here is "We'll be Free and Easy Still".  On the far right, at the top, is a picture of soldiers and drummers marching, with the song being, "Kogues March".

The lower left illustration is the most dramatic, and presents a stunning image of soldiers marching and singing.  This inset illustrates the song "Glory Halleluiah".  In the center is an image of a young lady, holding a white hanky, and standing beside a flag.  The image is illustrating the song, "The Girl I Left Behind".  Finally, in the lower right, a slave is pictured sitting on a barrel labeled "Contraband".  In the background, a man is seen hauling a heavy load.  The image is illustrating the song "Dixie".  The contraband almost appears to be sitting and whistling Dixie.

This is a dramatic illustration and represents a step forward in the career of Winslow Homer.

A Note to our Readers

We acquired the images above for the purpose of digitally persevering them on this site for all to enjoy.  With the digital archive complete, we are making the original, 140 year old illustrations available for purchase.  By selling these original illustrations, we are able to acquire more material to archive on this site.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the original Harper's Weekly leafs on this page, contact The leafs are available for a price of $250 a piece, and the proceeds will go to continue to expand the resources on this site.




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